Roofing shingle options: Pros vs. cons

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Updating your roof is one of the most significant investments you can make as a homeowner and it can last you 20 to 30 years.

Fall is a great time to have roofing work done on your home. The mild weather is ideal for working long hours in the sun.

Angie's List asked highly rated roofers about the different shingles available to homeowners today.

There are many options available when it comes to roofing shingles. Before making a choice, you should consider climate, durability and maintenance requirements. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of four common types of shingles.

  1. Asphalt: The most popular choice among homeowners. Pros: Durable and relatively inexpensive. Wide variety of colors and styles, ease of installation and suitability for a wide range of temperatures. Asphalt shingles also provide reliable waterproofing. Cons: Shorter life than many heavier tiles, especially if they are walked on. Dark asphalt shingles are prone to fading and tend to exhibit inconsistencies in color.

Asphalt shingles come in two main types: fiberglass and organic.

  • Fiberglass shingles consist of a fiberglass matt that is covered with asphalt to keep water out. The asphalt is topped with ceramic granules that work to reflect UV rays.
  • Organic shingles are typically made from recycled felt paper. Like fiberglass shingles, they also have a layer of asphalt to make them waterproof. Organic shingles are more durable than fiberglass, but are more expensive to purchase.
  1. Wood: Unique, attractive appearance and ability to blend in with the surrounding natural environment. Pros: Wood shingles provide a high degree of insulation. Cons: High cost, difficulty of installation and the high degree of combustibility. Though many wood tiles feature spray-on fire retardant, this protection disappears after a few years. Wood shingles are vulnerable to insects, mold and mildew.
  2. Slate: Slate may be the answer if you are looking for a sophisticated roofing material for an upscale home. Pros: Natural appearance, fire-resistance, invulnerability to rot, ease of maintenance and an expected life of 100 years. Slate is available in a good selection of colors and styles. Cons: Their weight and cost and the high degree of expertise needed for installation. Slate tiles are easily broken underfoot, complicating gutter cleaning and rooftop maintenance.
  3. Ceramic: Ceramic roofing tiles give a house character and are generally durable. Pros: Resistant to fading. Ceramic tiles are fireproof, and quality tiles should last 50 to 70 years. Cons:  Unsuitability for climates with fluctuating weather. Ceramic tiles are prone to erosion under these conditions. While the tiles are durable, they are also fragile. High winds will damage them, as will walking on the tiles.

Choosing a color for your roof project is not always easy. Remember, you have to live with the choice the next 20 to 30 years so choose wisely!

  • Brick is permanent: When choosing colors, remember that paint and shutter colors can always be changed, but brick color is permanent. Start by comparing sample colors to the brick, then move to the siding or paint colors.
  • Paint colors: If you are planning to make a change to the outside color of your home, compare the new color to the shingle/siding samples. Go to the local hardware store, buy a two-by-six board and paint it the new color. Put the board next to the samples and place them next to the permanent colors on your home. Always try to complement your colors instead of matching them exactly.
  • Shade and sun: When using samples to match your outside colors, look at the sample both in the sun and in the shade. Put the sample in a sunny place where the brick colors meet the paint and siding colors, then wait and check the same sample area when it is shaded. Make sure the colors are complimentary, both in the sun and in the shade.

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a roofing contractor

  • Are you legit? Ask to see proof of insurance and check the roofer's license with your local building department or licensing agent. If the company only lists a post office box, it's a red flag. Ask for a list of previous customers and visit the work sites to make sure the references are legit.
  • Get written estimates: Gather at least three bids before making a decision. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples
  • Read the contract before signing: The contract should include such items as payment terms, type of materials used, provisions for change orders and a termination clause.

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